6 Ways to Experience Nordic Skiing in Colorado
With over 20 Nordic-ski centers across the state and plenty of backcountry and other groomed trails available, there is no shortage of options when it comes to cross-country skiing. From free offerings to dog-friendly trails, we round up half a dozen different ways you can explore Colorado on skinny skis this winter.
1. Atop the World's Largest Flat-Top Mountain
The Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC) grooms and maintains 31 miles of ski trails on the Skyway, County Line and Ward trail systems on Grand Mesa (the largest flat-top mountain in the world, Grand Mesa near #GrandJunction has exquisite landscapes and gentle terrain). The Skyway trail system offers great views of the Bookcliffs (shale walls resembling book spines). The Skyway and County Line Nordic areas have separate trailheads about two miles apart on Highway 65 but are connected by Kannah Crossing and Scales Lake Road. The trails are easy to moderate with a maximum elevation change of 50 feet. Visit the GMNC website for more information.
2. At Colorado's 'Nordic Ski Capital'
The self-proclaimed Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado, there can be no denying #CrestedButte is an incredible place for #winter activities. Crested Butte Nordic, the nonprofit that maintains around 30 miles of scenic cross-country ski and snowshoe trails around town, offers everything you need to get started with #Nordicskiing including rentals, lessons, tours and even a gourmet #backcountry dining experience (see page 78 of our winter issue for more details).
The trails are grouped into three sections: Bench Trails, which are best skied with the morning sun or with storms as the forest offers great protection from the elements; the West Side Trails which are sunny and warm until early afternoon and then cool down once the sun dips behind Mount Emmons; and the East Side Trails which hold the sun into late afternoon. As for particular runs, Ruthie’s Run is a 3.1-mile FIS (International Federation of Skiing) race course. It isn’t for beginners, but those with some experience, can pit themselves yourself against the best in the world. Pooch’s Paradise is a dog-friendly 1.8-mile course. The Nordic Center and trailheads are all within walking distance from downtown.
3. For Free
There are a ton of free Nordic skiing opportunities across Colorado, but with a whopping 60 miles of free cross-country ski and snowshoe trails between Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt, the #Aspen #Snowmass Nordic trail system is one of the largest free trail systems in the country. Starting out over 30 years ago with a group of volunteers setting trails on Aspen Golf Course, the trail system is maintained by the nonprofit Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council and is an integral part of the Roaring Fork Valley experience.
The longest trail in the system is the Aspen to Rio Grande trail at 42 miles, but a much more manageable journey is the 13 or so miles out to the eclectic Woody Creek Tavern. Have a beer and refuel before heading back. For something in between the two, Aspen to Basalt is 23 miles. The system also hosts two fully outfitted cross country centers. Visit the group’s website for up-to-date info about the trails.
4. With Your Furry Friend
With more than 20 Nordic centers, Colorado once again proves it’s the best place in the country for winter activities. Gold Run Nordic Center is just one of the amazing centers in the state and offers over 18 miles of groomed classic and skate cross-country ski trails, including a few dog-friendly trails. The rec path that connects Breck and #Frisco allows dogs and is groomed throughout the winter. Devil's Thumb Ranch in #GrandCounty offers two dog-friendly loops (one main and one secondary circuit) as does Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center in #Granby.
There are plenty more that allow you to bring Fido, just be sure to check trail etiquette and rules before venturing out.
5. At a National Park
Colorado has four amazing #nationalparks, each with their own unique winter offerings, but Nordic skiing can be enjoyed at all four, if the weather and snow conditions permit of course. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park closes South Rim Road to vehicle traffic during the winter months at the visitor center and offers 6 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails with amazing views and is undoubtedly one of our top places for Nordic skiing in the state.
Rocky Mountain National Park offers great terrain and deep snow on the west side, but you’re free to strap on your skis throughout the park. When there is enough snow, there are opportunities in the backcountry of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, as with Mesa Verde National Park. Call or stop by the visitor center to get all the info and tips you need before you head out on your trek or to get required backcountry permits if necessary.
6. In a Costume
The 33rd annual Nordic Alley Loop Nordic Marathon takes place on Feb. 2, 2019. Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s main drag, becomes snow-packed giving Nordic skiers of all ages and ability levels the chance to participate in the Saturday races. The party, however, begins on Friday evening as the annual Pub Ski kicks off at local pub Talk of the Town. The Pub Ski requires participants to answer trivia, overcome challenges and be “uniquely Crested Butte” at each of the different bars on Elk Ave. Of course, costumes are de rigueur.
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